Come back to Church

So here is a blog post I just couldn’t write. I had to make a video because I felt the words would get lost. This is to everyone who needs to be reminded to come back. I pray this is a blessing and nudge of the Holy Spirit.

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:22-25 ESV

Lets stop, listen, ask questions and act!

I have to admit I don’t like to listen. I am an extreme extrovert so listening doesn’t come naturally. But seriously I think more of us need to listen. I mean really listen. Here is the thing I think many of us have forgotten how to listen.

Listening is not just sitting back and accepting what others are saying. It is trying to understand. I feel as though many of us have lost this in today’s world. This past week has been tough. It has been hard for many on both sides of almost all the debates. Stay home orders, Black Lives Matter, riots, protests, violent police, these topics have truly brought many of us to blows on social media, with family, with friends and even people we have never met.

As a Christian I have no problem with The Truth. I have no problem with their being absolute truth. I do however as a Christian know that because of my sinful self-centered nature I can never see any of this through a perfect lens. I am going to get many things wrong, I may use wrong words or wrong comparisons or examples but I know it is important to keep listening and ask questions.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance

Proverbs 1:5 NIV

What does it look like to listen? I think it is hearing points of view I don’t agree with. We all need to stop speaking in absolutes. Memes are not about listening but often about mocking another point of view. Lastly too often all I see is the tag line if you don’t agree, shut up, or shout it so those in the back stop talking. I dont find this helpful. I want to listen and I want to ask questions. I want you challenge me and I want to challenge you. But first I have to listen and then ask questions. Some of those questions will seem accusatory, I am sorry. I think it important to ask. When I ask those questions I know i need to keep listening. Listen so you can hear the people around you. So you can help and maybe become more empathetic to those who think, act and walk differently than you do. Lets be people who listen, ask questions, and finally act to change our world one person at a time.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:34-40 NIV

Stupid Steve and Doubting Thomas…You are the one who Jesus loved.

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Doubting Thomas…That is what we call him anyway.  Traditionally the reading for the Sunday after Easter is what we call the story of doubting Thomas.  I find in fascinating that we pick this reading for after Easter and that we call him by this name.  Its like we only remember the worst thing about him and run with it.  What is most fascinating to me in the text is Jesus doesn’t give him that name. It is what you and I have named him.  We took his worst moment in the Gospels and attached that to him for his lifetime and throughout history.

I remember back to my life as a grade school/Middles school student and I am glad that I am not named weird Steve, quiet Steve, or stupid Steve…Well I suppose I could have been called all those things at one point or another in my life and actually probably far worse if I really knew what people thought of me as young person. I have called myself far worse in my head. I am glad this thing called Facebook wasn’t around and my mother has very few pictures of me to remember all the awful things I ever did as a child because back then we didnt take a picture/video of every dumb thing we ever did.

What is every time you walked around this world everyone only remembered you for the worst thing you ever did?  I know some of us think that is the way we are supposed to be.  You see we take our worst sin and have a hard time letting it go.  We walk around day and night just holding onto that sin.  We make it our name badge.  We sometimes even share it with others. It might be the sin of hatred, or something truly evil we did as a child, teen, or young adult.  It might be we think of ourselves as divorcee, bully, or terrible parent.  We all walk around with baggage.

I will tell you this, as I remind myself on daily basis, my name is not stupid Steve.  You and I are not named after our worst mistake we are called beloved.  My name is the one who Jesus loved. I can try to make my name something else or try to make it more than that, but ultimately it is the name Jesus calls me.  The name he gave me when he called me his own in my baptism.  May we all remember what our real name is today. If you are walking around thinking of your name as something other than loved than let me remind you that your are the one whom Jesus loved!

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-28 ESV

This isn’t how it is supposed to be…One day we will do this right

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Today I had the opportunity to sit in front of my TV and be a greeter at Church. This isn’t how this is supposed to be. We had some technical difficulties, and the feed was missing sound for the first 10 minutes. This is not how this is supposed to be.  I had technical difficulties at home with my TV, and I participated in the service through a 4″ phone.  This morning all I thought was,  “This isn’t how it is supposed to be.”

During the service, once it got working, I had some friends from Church text me about the tech stuff and sent me thanks for it working. I had nothing to do with fixing it, I just let the team know at Church it wasn’t working. At the end of our conversation, one of them said, “I can’t wait until I can see my Church family again.”  I agreed this isn’t how this is supposed to be.

Although there is a lot of good that has come from all this, not the least of which is churches and people sharing Jesus online, I cannot tell you how much I want to be together with people in worship. This is not how it is supposed to be. I look forward to the amazing moment when our community can be together again. It will be a great moment for our people and for me personally. I love people, and I can’t wait to be together again.

I had a thought today; even when we get back together, even when we get together and pull out all the stops and it feels like heaven, it won’t be.  This just isn’t how it is supposed to be. You see one day, when this is all over, we will gather all together, in person, in our resurrected body for worship that will last for eternity.  It will be beyond amazing, and it will be beyond everything we have ever experienced or seen.  We will hug our loved ones and celebrate Jesus like we can’t even imagine.  That is the day we see a little here but will see more fully when Jesus comes again.

I pray as we go through these days that we are reminded that this isn’t how it is supposed to be, not just in worship, all of it.  Jesus changes everything, and I can’t wait for it to be just as He said it will be.

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
    and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
    the sun shall not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 7:13-17 ESV